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Annual School Violence Report Brings Bullying Into Focus at Central

District's 2011-2012 report shows 20 incidents classified as bullying, under new state law

In its first report on school violence issued since the passage of a state law requiring active responses to bullying in schools, Central Regional's middle and high schools recorded 20 incidents of bullying last year.

The 2011-2012 Violence and Vandalism Report, presented by district Superintendent Triantifilos Parlapanides at the Central Regional Board of Education meeting on Thursday night, cited a total of 29 incidents of violence, vandalism and substance abuse in the two schools.

Of those, 20 incidents -- 13 in the middle school and seven at the high school -- fell under the category of bullying, Parlapanides said.

The definition of bullying under the state's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, is very broad, Parlapanides said.

"If you call someone fat, that is considered bullying," he said.

But he and the principals of the two schools -- Douglas Corbett from the high school and Dennis Driber from the middle school, along with middle school vice principal Joseph Firetto -- said the end result is positive.

"It is a lot of paperwork," Parlapanides said.

A report of bullying sets off a chain of events, including an investigation that must be conducted within 10 days of the report, a determination of whether the event truly was an instance of bullying, and then determining how to deal with the situation, he said, all of it governed by very specific guidelines.

"It used to be I could call both kids in together, talk to them, get them to say what they wanted out of the situation and get them to shake on it, and move on," Parlapanides said. Now, "we have to interview the kids separately," so that the bully cannot affect how the victim answers questions about the situation. The district also has to interview any other students who witnessed the incident, teachers or other school personnel who may have witnessed it, before making a determination.

"It's a much more lengthy process now," Parlapanides said. "But it is worth it to keep our kids safe."

Complicating matters, Corbett said, is the fact that so much more of the bullying begins outside of school on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and more.

But the trouble is those issues never stay outside of school, Corbett said.

"It's not (an outside-of-school problem) when it causes a ruckus (in school) the next day," Parlapanides said.

One incident last year involved an account on Tumblr, a social media site that consists primarily of photos, where someone posted photos of female students and called it "The Whores of Central," Parlapanides said.

Firetto said the difficulty is the process of investigating complaints is that it can be very disruptive.

"You're pulling kids out of class to talk to them" about an incident, so you're disrupting the learning process, he said.

On the positive side, however, students found to be bullying others are forced to go to counseling sessions to learn about bullying and to help teach them the behavior is wrong, Firetto said.

"The therapeutic piece (of the anti-bullying effort) is the most important piece," he said.

The report breaks the incidents down by school and by the part of the year. From September to January, the middle school had eight bullying incidents reported. Of those, one was ruled to be unfounded. Seven others resulted in the offenders being assigned to counseling and other services.

The high school had five incidents reported during that time, with all five resulting in offenders being assigned to counseling and other services. There were 21 student offenders in the September-to-January period, and 12 students who were victimized.

In the second part of the year, from February to June, there were five bullying incidents reported in the middle school, and two in the high school, Parlapanides said, with nine student offenders and eight students victimized.

"Our teachers give us a lot of heads up," Parlapanides said, letting administrators know if a student seems distressed or notifying them of other things they observe, which helps the district combat problems.

In addition to the bullying, the report noted four incidents of vandalism -- two in each half of the year -- and five incidents of substance abuse. Three police complaints were filed in the vandalism incidents in the first half of the year, none in the second half, though police were notified twice without complaints being filed.

Parlapanides said the bulk of the district's students are good kids, respectful and supportive of each other, and said the most clear demonstration of that has been the students' response to the Choice students, who came to Central from other districts throughout the county.

"They have been making those kids feel right at home," he said.

But the role of the Internet in bullying issues means the district needs to come up with some very clear policies regarding the use of technology, since the entire district will soon have wi-fi throughout the schools, he said.

"We don't want kids bullying each other on the Internet in school," Parlapanides said.

Beth October 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Good points Gloria. We moved our family here to Bayville thinking the schools were great. We are now worried about our decision.Come on Berkeley lets work together to fix this. We need to save our children.
John October 20, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Nancy, So true. We do need ACT now. Act now before it's is too late.
John October 20, 2012 at 12:33 AM
You know, I have heard talk around town about the bulling at Central Regional schools, but I thought it might have been exaggerated. To hear now about students in the hospital, suicide attempts, wow this is crazy. Tell us what we can do; I am sure most people in town will help.
John October 20, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Nicole, If the administration will not help, maybe we as concerned parents can get together and perhaps go discuss this with someone higher up and possibly even the Asbury Park Press.
John October 20, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Beth I agree. Our childrens' lives are indeed too precious to not take bullying seriously.
John October 20, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Walter, I agree with your post.
jenn October 20, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Let's get to the bottom of this right away. We all agree that bullying has got to stop. Students need to go to school happily to learn and make friends, not in fear of being bullied first by fellow students and again when their cries go unanswered by the school officials.
jenn October 20, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Concerned, you are right, this is a sin. The school should be protecting all of it's students. How much time do those being bullied miss in school? Alot, I am guessing.
jenn October 20, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Nicole, I agree with you and like John's idea. We should take this to those that are truely willing to listen and HELP. Our students are so special, each and every one.
Anthony October 20, 2012 at 12:55 AM
The teachers seem to be, for the most part, doing their part. It is up to the principal to take it from there. BULLYING MUST STOP.
George October 20, 2012 at 12:56 AM
All are correct about the need to stop this from happening while the young men and women are in school or on school property. The big problem is how to stop it from starting and festering on the streets and online so it does not boil over when they are in school.
Anthony October 20, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Our family also moved to Bayville primarily with the schools in mind. We too, are disappointed. We have a couple of years before our kids get to the middle school; we hope this Bullying is under control by then. Otherwise we will have to leave the town that we have grown to love.
Walter Leleta October 20, 2012 at 01:07 AM
George, This is true. Any suggestions and we are all willing to help. PARENTS we too need to help, whether our kids are the ones being bullied, are the ones doing the bullying or simply happy students.
Kim October 20, 2012 at 10:49 AM
I, like Nicole am very close to 1 of the children (there are 3 from Central in the same facility) that is the latest child to be hospitalized for being bullied. Everyone need's to understand that this just hasn't happened overnight, this has been going on for well over a year. This child's mother has gone to the school numerous times to no avail. I find it ironic that the school was called by the Doctor on Tuesday and were informed of the severity of this situation and low & behold here it is in the newspaper. What is not said in this article is that the students that are involved were called down to the guidance office & asked if they have been bullying anyone...they said no & they were told, okay go back to class...Is anyone else appalled by this? Let's be honest...we know "most" kids aren't angels, we all have done things as children we might regret or not necessarily talk about, but it's not like it used to be, especially with social media. I pray that the school steps up and does something about this. What is it gonna take...a bullied student to walk in the school with an overcoat on? We as a community need to find out what we can do to help...these are 'OUR' kids...
Christine Dwight October 20, 2012 at 11:58 AM
There is now a system in place that must be followed each time a bullying incident is reported. It can no longer be swept under the rug. They don't just call students down and ask if they are bullying anyone. If I was this students parent and it has gotten so bad that their child is cutting themselves and is now hospitalized I would be at that school demanding something be done. If that didn't work, I would go to the school board or the press . I wouldn't let it go till something was done!
Kim October 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I know what protocol is in place, unfortunately it's not implemented correctly, there are way to many kids falling through the cracks. As far as the kids getting called down to the office, that's exactly what happened, my child is in 1 of the students class and I was told the "interview" took no longer then 10 minutes. Shame, shame.
Nicole October 20, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I feel bad for those of you who said you moved her for the schools. Yes, the elementary schools are great but the middle school and high school are terrible. If your kid isn't the best of the best or the worst of the worst, they get swept under the rug. I've had so many problems since my son has been at the middle school. Their parent-teacher conferences are a joke and when you try to set up private appointments with the teachers or guidance they try to push you to the side, you have to practically beg for it and they act like they can't be bothered with your concerns. And I agree with everyone, something needs to be done. WE need to do something, not just say we have to. Any ideas?? Lets do something NOW so that no more students end up in the hospital like the 3 that are in there now!!!
skizma October 20, 2012 at 04:10 PM
This is a definite improvement over bringing the two TOGETHER in the principles office and talking it out and making up. How devastating the must've been for the one bullied!!! What would you be thinking by doing that? Anyone with a minimum of training would know not to do this as a form of conflict resolution. Thus, they had to implement rules on how to handle this. Hoping the correct method for handling this issue is of help to those bullied and are in fear.
skizma October 20, 2012 at 04:13 PM
The school should monitor the social media as well. These minors who put illegal activities - especially drinking - on their pages and posts should be followed up with. The parents just don't say no. It's not that hard. No you can't drink, you're too young. Anything else?
George October 21, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Not sure if the school officials could monitor students online activity when they are using their own devices off school grounds. The first step would be for the parents to make that first move and not leave it up to others to safe guard their children
Triantafillos Parlapanides October 22, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Dear Parents and Students, I just wanted to state for the record that as a district we do everything we can anytime an incident is reported to our administration. We follow the new HIB laws and only by working together and with help from the parents, will bullying come to an end. Central Regional School District is a great place with outstanding teachers, administrators and kids. However, if we don't know about it we can not fix it. I am not a Superintendent that buries his head in the sand and says everything is great! I know we have issues at Central Regional and we are addressing those issues. I am proud that we actually report our incidents and are transparent. To end bullying I need the parents help, teach good manners at home. I need my teachers to reinforce the positive behavior we expect here at Central Regional School District and my administration to continue to be proactive rather than reactive. Bullying is a problem for everyone and it will take everyone's effort to put an end to it. Thank you. Sincerely, Dr. Triantafillos Parlapanides Superintendent of Schools
Nicole October 22, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Dr. Parlapanides, you've got to be kidding me! This student I was talking about above has been bullied at CRHS for over a year now and your school has done NOTHING for her even though her & her mother brought it to the schools attention MANY times. It's been almost a week and just TODAY my son got called down to be interviewed about what he witnessed. It took a suicide threat, her cutting herself and the doctors at the hospital to call several times before anything was done. CRHS is a disgrace, you should be ashamed of your school, not proud.
Triantafillos Parlapanides October 22, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Dear Skizma, I just wanted to let you know the Ramapo-Indian Hills case does not allow a school district to punish a student for events that occur outside of school unless it creates an issue at school. For example when students bully other students on Facebook and the internet then a school can take action. If a student gets a DUI over the weekend a school district can not then punish that student on Monday. What is the parents responsibility for keeping his son/daughter off the internet? We are educators not cyber cops. As far as the underaged drinking its simple, as a parent you say "no" until they are 21. Once again these issues are bigger than Central Regional. These are a generational issue with MTV and all these reality shows, where kids think it is okay to drink and do what ever they want. I don't mind if the school is the second line of defense but it all starts from home! I was never a bully at school because my parents taught me to treat everyone like I would like to be treated. We need everyone to step up from Parents, Students, Teachers and Administrators. Once again, there are guidelines for Bullying and I want to assure everyone that Central follows those guidelines which include investigation, statement, discipline and remediation. If you have any questions please feel free to call my office at 732-269-1100 ext. 206. Thank you. Sincerely, Dr. Parlapanides
Triantafillos Parlapanides October 22, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Dear Nicole, You are talking about a student? So this isn't even your child if I am correct? There are two sides to every story and if your son was called down today, how do you know what was already done for this student? I hope the child will recover and my prayers go to the family. Since this isn't your child are you sure there aren't other issues that have come into play? I am and always will be proud of Central Regional School District and all that it does for it's students. So I will have to disagree with you but thank you for your opinion. Sincerely, Dr. Parlapanides P.S. Still proud of Central Regional School District and all that it does for our students!
Nicole October 23, 2012 at 01:44 AM
You can defend that school all you want (you get paid to do that), but your school has a terrible reputation and I agree with the reputation. You can claim all you want that the school does everything it can for the students but the opposite has been proven over and over. I've had issues myself with CRMS guidance office. Like I said above, if your kid isn't the "best of the best" or the "worst of the worst", they get swept under the rug. I've had to practically beg and get angry to get meetings with teachers. Your parent-teacher conferences are a joke.
not playing the game October 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM
i think also someone needs to check on what is going on at home . Her problems sounds like more than just the bullying .
not playing the game October 24, 2012 at 12:35 AM
alot is on the parents. children learn how to treat people with kindness from their parents. Believe me it is not taught. my grandaughter was bully over the summer it comes from home.
Berzerkeley October 26, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Of course the big shots at Central all like to say how concerned they are about bullying because it makes for good press. Students bullying other students are one thing but when it comes to teachers and administrators using their authority to bully our kids it all gets swept under the table. In case you were not aware of it, shenanigans concerning cheer squad gender discrimination and conflict of interest issues involving a private gym in another town were completely accepted and condoned by Central's highly paid school administration all the way to the top of the heap last year. if you are curious, ask any of the squad members who were stabbed in the heart by those who were supposed to be protecting them. As a result of parents protesting this travesty, select students were singled out by those in charge and harassed for the remainder of the school year right up to the day of graduation for payback. Yet another example of the accepted bs that goes on at Central that the Berkeley residents have to contend with. Next time the Board of Ed pleads poverty and wants to bleed yet more tax money from the townsfolk, you should keep this in mind. It's not about the kids at all like the teachers union likes to state. Its about administrative bullys with highly paid jobs who have no business being allowed to be anywhere near our kids. In the private sector they would have been headed for the unemployment line long ago. At Central, it's obvious that established laws don't apply to some.
Hearme December 18, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I have to speak out as a mother who had a child that was bullied & has student in Central currently. I admit that both sides have points but need to remember that just because we want something done doesn't mean it can be. Besides I would be pissed & feel it was a violation of my child’s rights to have the school monitor anything that they do outside of school unless invited to do so. The schools hands are tied when it comes to certain things. You can accuse anyone of anything, PROVING it is a different story & most laws protect the bully not the victim. Just knowing something exists doesn't mean something can be done about it. If they know a student drinks or does drugs on weekends they can't do a damn thing as long as that behaviour is not carried out in school. THAT IS HOW IT SHOULD BE. Having kids that have spanned many years through this school system I can say that there has been a great improvement of dealing with bullies however it is not a perfect system. Many times kids don't let teachers or administrators know there is an issue. I can only speak for myself & I can honestly say Dr. P has never dismissed any issue although I will admit at times I felt things took to long. I have dealt with him as a teacher, principal & superintendent & he always TRIED to help. The other day I was told by students that bullying is almost non existent in CRHS. Although I'm sure there are cases they are unaware of.At least 2 of these kids have been bullied in other schools.
Hearme December 18, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I do wish those students well. I know how hard it is to go through. I had a child that was bullied and I was bullied as a child. It's difficult to deal with and stays with you.

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